As I grew up and started to study geography, I remember being told that the five fingers can be thought of as the five major continents: Europe, Asia, Africa, and North and South America.This is possibly the dumbest analogy I have ever heard in any speech, and probably also the most insulting. Consider that her audience was an graduating class of MBAs from Colombia.
First, let’s consider our little finger. Think of this finger as Africa.
Our thumb is Asia: strong, powerful, and ready to assert herself as a major player on the world’s economic stage.
Our index, or pointer finger, is Europe. Europe is the cradle of democracy and pointed the way for western civilization and the laws we use in conducting global business.
The ring finger is South America, including Latin America.
This analogy of the five fingers as the five major continents leaves the long, middle finger for North America, and, in particular, The United States. As the longest of the fingers, it really stands out. The middle finger anchors every function that the hand performs and is the key to all of the fingers working together efficiently and effectively. This is a really good thing, and has given the U.S. a leg-up in global business since the end of World War I.
However, if used inappropriately –just like the U.S. itself -- the middle finger can convey a negative message and get us in trouble. You know what I’m talking about. In fact, I suspect you’re hoping that I’ll demonstrate what I mean. And trust me, I’m not looking for volunteers to model.
What is most crucial to my analogy of the five fingers as the five major continents, is that each of us in the U.S. – the long middle finger – must be careful that when we extend our arm in either a business or political sense, we take pains to assure we are giving a hand … not the finger. Sometimes this is very difficult. Because the U.S. – the middle finger – sticks out so much, we can send the wrong message unintentionally.
Unfortunately, I think this is how the rest of the world looks at the U.S. right now. Not as part of the hand – giving strength and purpose to the rest of the fingers – but, instead, scratching our nose and sending a far different signal.
I'd like to take this opportunity to raise my middle finger to Mrs. Nooyi, and to PesiCo for hiring such a daft executive.
I'm drinking Coke.
P.S. Nothing gets a company's attention like thousands of angry consumers email. Drop a note to the PepsiCo board, BoardofDirectors@Pepsi.com, and let them know how you feel.